Indian students pursing higher education in the United States have increasingly dropped Engineering as their subject of choice. The report by Graduate Record Examination (GRE) shows that Indian students prefer studying Physical Science for their post-graduation or doctorate degrees in the US.
According to GRE data, physical sciences, including physics, chemistry and earth sciences, are now the most popular choice of degree for Indian looking to study for Masters and PhD in US.
The data indicates that in the 2020-2021 academic year, Indian students accounted for 54% of all GRE test-takers in the Physical Sciences category, compared to just 41% in the Engineering category.
Notably, this data is limited to representing test-takers who have specified their intended graduate major at the time of the examination.
GRE is a gateway admission exam for post-graduate (called graduate in the US) programmes, mainly in the United States. Higher education institutions in the UK, Canada, Australia and Ireland also accept GRE scores.
The GRE examination provides universities with a common criterion to compare applicants from all over the world. The GRE, as conducted by Educational Testing Services (ETS) headquartered in the US, assesses proficiency in mathematics, reading and writing.
The decline in candidates keen on studying engineering in the US is significant, dropping from 34% ten years ago to 17% in the testing year 2021-22. In contrast, GRE candidates interested in physical sciences increased from 27% to 37% over the same period.
The decline of engineering against the rise of physical sciences is further corroborated by the Open Doors Report compiled by the US State Department and the non-profit Institute of International Education, which shows that the proportion of Indians pursuing engineering in the US fell from 38.8% in 2009-10 to 29.6% in 2021-22.
The Open Doors Report again reflects that fewer students are inclined to pursue life sciences. The number of Indians enrolled in life sciences programmes fell from 10% in 2013-14 to 6.5% in 2021-22.
Experts have attributed the shift in trend could be attributed to the need in students for a more stable future and job security as opposed to the dynamic style of IT jobs and other engineering sector.
The shift could also be cited in increasing layoffs in the fast moving sector which said owing to over-hiring during the Covid-19 pandemic, cost cutting has become inevitable in the post-pandemic era, thereby triggering mass layoffs.
The increasing trend of interdisciplinary studies, research and innovation, has also caused the significant shift in trend for Indians opting to study in US.
Indians make up the second-largest cohort of international students at US universities. In 2021-22, India sent 199,182 students to America, an increase of 18.9% from the previous year.
The number of graduate students, in particular, has seen significant growth- 2021-22 saw a 48% increase to 1,02,024. This correlates with the increasing popularity of the GRE in India; a record 1,11,476 took the exam in India this past testing year, more than double that in China.
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